9/11 Report Facts Obtained From Tortured Prisoners

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Today, most people know that the US tortured prisoners at Guantánamo and CIA black sites.  Experts have been clear that torture does not produce reliable information. The response is often yeah, torture is the only way to save Americans from a mushroom cloud tomorrow. Cripes, it works for Jack Bauer!  

Even if you believe torture is permissible for national security reasons, is torture an acceptable method for a Congressionally-established commission to obtain facts? News reports indicate that 25% of the information about the 9/11 attacks came from prisoners who were tortured. The 9/11 Commission was responsible for providing a complete accounting of the attacks, including “recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.” Just how safe is America when it is relying upon recommendations based upon facts obtained by torture?  

Newsweek is now reporting that the 9/11 commission relied upon information obtained from prisoners who were tortured.  The 9/11 report documented in detailed footnotes when information was obtained from the CIA interrogations of prisoners. NBC news conducted an analysis that found that ¼ of the footnotes referenced the source of the facts to prisoners who were subjected to the euphemistic “enhanced interrogation techniques” or what many admit now was torture. The NBC News analysis was based on the final 9/11 report as well as interviews with Commission staffers and current/former intelligence officials.

According to both current and former senior U.S. intelligence officials, the operatives cited by the Commission were subjected to the harshest of the CIA’s methods, the “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The techniques included physical and mental abuse, exposure to extreme heat and cold, sleep deprivation and waterboarding.

The torture evidence was cited to establish key parts of critical sections of the 9/11 report:

The NBC News analysis shows that more than one quarter of all footnotes in the 9/11 Report refer to CIA interrogations of al-Qaida operatives who were subjected to the now-controversial interrogation techniques. In fact, information derived from the interrogations is central to the Report’s most critical chapters, those on the planning and execution of the attacks. The analysis also shows – and agency and commission staffers concur – there was a separate, second round of interrogations in early 2004, done specifically to answer new questions from the Commission.

The CIA claims that only 3 prisoners were waterboarded: “Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks; Abu Zubaydah, Al Qaeda’s operations chief; and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, ringleader of the USS Cole bombing.”  The 9/11 report cites information from KSM and Zubaydah “throughout two key chapters” of the report addressing the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks.

Evidence tainted by torture is excluded from criminal trials because it is inherently unreliable, yet, key parts of a Congressional report that will be used to establish policy are based on torture.

What does it say about America that a Congressionally established committee apparently ignored “obvious clues throughout 2003 and 2004 that its account of the 9/11 plot and Al Qaeda’s history relied heavily on information obtained” from tortured prisoners? The NBC report states that the 9/11 Commission “suspected that critical information it used in its landmark report” was the product of the “enhanced interrogations” that many call by its rightful name of torture.

The 9/11 panel also did not publicly protest the interrogation methods even though there were public reports at the time that the prisoners were being tortured or subjected to “enhanced interrogation.” Moreover, despite their suspicions and public news reports, the position of the commission staffers interviewed by NBC News was that interrogation techniques were “not in our mandate.”

Finally, the commission “demanded that the CIA carry out new rounds of interrogations in 2004 to get answers to its questions.”   Newsweek reports that it is a “distinct possibility” that prisoners were subjected to torture in order to answer the questions posed by the 9/11 Commission. Commission members wanted to have direct access to the prisoners to ask questions, but the Whitehouse refused, so questions were passed onto the CIA. The Commission first requested access to the prisoners in 2004 when the horrors of Abu Ghraib were publicly revealed.

NBC News reported how the Commission “pushed” the CIA to obtain information from the prisoners:

In addition, officials of both the 9/11 Commission and CIA confirm the Commission specifically asked the agency to push the operatives on a new round of interrogations months after their first interrogations. The Commission, in fact, supplied specific questions for the operatives to the agency. This new round took place in early 2004, when the agency was still engaged in the full range of harsh techniques.

Newsweek notes the “troubling implications for the credibility of the commission’s final report” given that testimony obtained by torture is “typically discredited.” Commission staffers knew this to be the case:

9/11 Commission staffers say they “guessed” but did not know for certain that harsh techniques had been used, and they were concerned that the techniques had affected the operatives’ credibility. At least four of the operatives whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators critical information as a way to stop being “tortured.”

The 9/11 Commission executive director, Philip Zelikow, stated that they did not know for sure that prisoners were tortured to obtain this information, but “we guessed that things like that were going on” and so “we tried to find different sources to enhance our credibility.”

Former Senator Bob Kerrey, who was a commission member, said that we may need a “permanent 9/11 commission” to resolve the “mysteries of September 11” as even he now believes that “there’s reason now to suspect that we may have gotten some of the details wrong.”

The NBC News analysis was reported on its investigative blog site a year ago. Aside from an interview conducted at the time by Democracy Now!, there has not been much press coverage until the Newsweek article this week. Have there been other times when prisoners were tortured to provide information to other committees? For whatever reason that members of the 9/11 Commission did not yell this story to the public years ago, why not come forward now?

Our options for finding out the truth are being wiped away bit by bit. Will there ever be public trials of the prisoners? How many lawsuits filed by prisoners will be dismissed rather than proceed to a public trial? Congress is discussing various proposals for investigations, but what will be the scope of those inquiries and the rules for whether immunity is provided? And, how is a “Truth Commission” based on the model of the 9/11 Commission anything more than a sham, particularly knowing that it used evidence obtained from torture? If a special prosecutor is not appointed to conduct a truly open and independent inquiry, we may never learn the truth about the nature and extent to which our government tortured prisoners and which of our policies are based on tortured evidence.

For many Americans, torture was an abstract concept of events occurring overseas. Now we learn that elected lawmakers and appointed officials turned a blind eye while they used, and perhaps encouraged, torture to obtain “facts” upon which US policy will be based.  


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  1. my friends did not know. very strange given the NBC analysis done a year ago. But newsweek just posted 2 days ago.  

  2. I’m afraid that for most Americans, torture is just part of the landscape.  Whether it is senators and congresspeople having people tortured to fill in the lines of a report, or Officer Bob tasering that black fella who was lookin’ in windows in our neighborhood last week, you know Thelma got real nervous…we’re ok with it, pretty sure (but not completely sure) it will pass us over, if we just don’t talk about it and stay in the lines.  And we know, from all the TV shows and movies we’ve seen, that there’s no other way to talk to the bad guys.  Nothing else works!  Gotta do it.  And if we skip all the lines of the sidewalk with moss in them, it will never, ever happen to us.

    But eh…for those of us out here in blogland, crisped by outrage and waving in the wind…the idea of senators waving their hand and saying “find this out for me” and someone being tortured to answer their questions…is really, really sickening.

  3. The complicity of the MSM throughout the Bush Administration years enabled them to continue doing exactly as they pleased.  I don’t know much about the Federal Communications’ laws, but I’m sure there must be a code of ethics concerning the reliable, honest and trustworthy reporting of the news.  But, likely, since all of the MSM is owned by Republicans, it’s doubtful that there will ever be any backlash.

    I do feel, however, that had we had an honest media, reporting the truth to us, the Bush Administration could have been stopped in their tracks — that is once we learned about another illegal tactic they pursued.  

    The subject of torture and our treatment of the detainees is NOT going away and we must do our bit to it make sure that it doesn’t.  LTE’s are a good way to make more Americans aware of what has gone on.

    Would that we were as forthright and forceful as Canada.  Please see this video — not to be missed with a Canadian lawyer and Keith Olbermann.  

    Will Canada Arrest George W Bush For Torture?

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